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Is Your Hiring Process Ineffective? Try These Helpful Methods

What’s the typical order of your hiring process? The common order is usually something like this:

  • Resume screening
  • Interview
  • Assessment
  • Job offer

Your process may not look exactly like this, as some companies have several rounds of interviews and different types of assessments. But if your hiring process generally follows this type of structure, it’s not very effective.

Time Required for Each Hiring Step

Let’s look at a more expanded version of the list above. Consider how much time each step takes, and how much information about a candidate it gives you.

Step Time needed Information received
Resume screening 5 minutes Does the candidate meet the listed requirements?
Phone interview 30 minutes Learn a bit about the candidate and why they applied for the job.
Personality test 15 minutes Find out the candidate’s personality profile.
First interview 1 hour Meet the candidate and learn about their education and previous experience.
Skill and aptitude assessment 30 minutes In-depth info about a candidate’s abilities.
Second interview 2 hours Detailed info about a candidate’s experiences.
Job offer 10 minutes Will the candidate accept the terms?

The time each step takes may vary, of course, so this is just an example. In total, this hiring process takes four hours and 30 minutes of your time. The personality test and skill/aptitude assessments include the time it takes to administer the test and review the results.

Ineffective Hiring Steps

Reading a resume doesn’t take much time, but it also doesn’t give much useful information. You can see if the candidate fulfills the basic requirements, such as skills and experience, but not much else. Candidates will often list their hobbies or personal achievements on their resume, but these are useless unless they’re in some way related to the job. Why does it matter if a candidate loves sailing or is the world champion in arm-wrestling? It doesn’t help you make a hiring decision unless you’re hiring a sailor or an arm-wrestler.

A phone interview lets you ask why they applied for the job and what they expect from the role. It’s also a chance for you to provide more detail about the job and answer the candidate’s questions. It doesn’t take too long, but also doesn’t provide any crucial information.

Personality tests are a quick way to see if a candidate would fit the company culture and be a productive employee. Though there is a lack of evidence for their usefulness. It’s also easy for candidates to lie on personality tests, which they’ll likely do if getting the job depends on it. Therefore the information you get from personality tests is not useful. Considering how unreliable they are, personality tests have no place in the hiring process.

The first interview is usually a typical unstructured interview. You meet the candidate and talk about their experience and achievements. However, you need to filter through a lot of useless information as well. Unstructured interviews are also extremely susceptible to bias. Besides, since they are completely subjective, there is no standardized criteria by which you can accurately compare different candidates. According to one study, unstructured interviews are so inaccurate that they’re counterproductive to your hiring efforts and shouldn’t be used at all.

Effective Hiring Steps

Assessments for aptitude and skill often come after an interview. Skill tests let the candidate directly demonstrate their abilities in a way that you can easily compare to other candidates. Specifically, testing a candidate’s knowledge or skill gives you valuable information that’s critical in making a hiring decision, as job skills are the main criteria for hiring someone.

Aptitude tests are also known as reasoning tests, cognitive tests, or general mental ability tests. They can assess a range of abilities such as problem-solving, abstract thinking, logical reasoning, and others. As these abilities are used in many jobs, candidates who score highly on these tests are promising.

Assessments are relatively easy to administer and don’t require much of your time, at least compared to interviews. While they do take time to create, once you have them in place, the time it takes to administer and review them is relatively short. But, you don’t need to create them yourself. You can use any online pre-employment testing service to do that for you. Thus, saving even more time and making things easier for both you and your candidates.

The second interview round is the opportunity for a structured interview. A structured interview is a type of interview where the questions are prepared in advance. All candidates are asked the same questions, in the same order, and their answers are scored based on predefined criteria. This way you can objectively compare candidates to each other. This step lets candidates provide a lot of detailed information about their experiences, work ethic, professional achievements, and other important data that can help with making a hiring decision.

The Optimal Order of Hiring Methods

Not all methods give equally valuable information, and the time they take varies significantly. So which order should you use them in? To make your hiring process more efficient, you should prioritize the methods which give the most information for the least amount of time and order the hiring process based on these criteria.

To understand which order of hiring methods is optimal, we need to rank them based on how good they are. Fortunately, there is plenty of research that tells us how good each particular hiring method is. Sadly, some of the most common hiring methods, which are widely used, such as resume screening and unstructured interviews, don’t work well. The most effective hiring methods are work-sample tests, aptitude tests, and structured interviews.

Test First…

A work-sample test assesses a candidate’s ability with a sample of actual work. For example, if you’re hiring a programmer, you ask them to write some code. If you were to hire a chef, surely you’d like to know what their food tastes like before you hire them? All things considered, there is no reason not to use this approach with almost any profession.

Aptitude tests assess cognitive abilities such as problem-solving, logical or abstract reasoning, and similar talents. They don’t show if a candidate has the required job knowledge or skills but, according to research, candidates with higher cognitive ability learn more job knowledge, and learn it faster, than those with lower cognitive ability.

Research has consistently shown that work-sample tests and aptitude tests are far more accurate and effective at predicting job performance than almost any other hiring method. Therefore, you should use tests as early as possible in your hiring process, even as the very first step. You can set up your hiring process so that candidates apply by taking the test.

Most candidates will fail a short initial skill test. That may sound bad, but it’s not. Most candidates fail pre-employment skill tests because these tests are designed as elimination tests. By filtering out weaker candidates with a pre-interview skill test, you are narrowing down the selection right from the start of the hiring process. This means that candidates that come to the interview are more qualified than if you had screened them using resumes. In other words, it’s more efficient to test for skills and aptitude before interviewing because testing doesn’t take much of your time but the information you receive from this hiring step is extremely valuable.

… Then Interview

A structured interview requires some preparation in deciding which questions to ask and defining scoring criteria. Once you have it in place, you can see how it’s far more objective than typical unstructured interviews. It’s fair to all candidates since they are all given the same questions and scored based on the same rules. It’s also far better for you, because, since the questions are standardized, you can directly and transparently compare different candidates, which is crucial in making a hiring decision. This approach works for both hard and soft skills, and helps avoid bias.

As a result, structured interviews are almost as accurate and effective as work-sample and aptitude tests. However, they require more time, which is why they should take place after the testing round(s). Testing will filter out weaker candidates, leaving only better-qualified candidates for the interview. Therefore the average time of the interview itself will likely be a bit longer, since more qualified candidates are likely to give more detailed and knowledgeable answers to your questions. But ultimately you’ll need to interview fewer candidates so overall your whole hiring process will take less time.

Conclusion

How you organize your hiring process has a significant impact on how efficient and effective it is. The traditional hiring model has a lot of inefficiencies that can hurt your chances of finding the best candidates.

Ordering your hiring methods optimally, based on data provided by research into hiring methods, not only makes your hiring process more accurate, it also saves a lot of time.

#TChat Recap: Leveraging Social Recruiting Legally

Leveraging Social Recruiting Legally

Using social recruiting to determine if a candidate is worth investing in is a sensitive process. But it is a modern-day practice being widely used, and it needs to be understood before it is greatly misinterpreted. Finding talent is a tough business, but screening candidates becomes too delicate of a process to simply let content on a candidate’s social profile affect their candidacy. This week, our community was joined by: Jason Morris, Co-Founder, COO and President of EmployeeScreenIQ; and Nick Fishman, Co-Founder, EVP and CMO of EmployeeScreenIQ. Both specialize in helping organizations screen talent efficiently. They taught our community about the value in screening talent, but also how it is vital for every organization to perform it.

The embedding of social media in our DNA has proven to provide constant change to old processes and adaption to new ones in the World of Work. It is what has brought about the usage of screening candidates by checking their social media accounts. But why? What does social media screening teach us? The reality is:

Ultimately, every organization searches for a glimpse into a candidate’s character and his/her skill sets. Evaluating candidates goes beyond reading resumes and checking references. It extends to evaluating the content they post on their social networks. Truth be told:

The trouble with socially screening candidates is that our perceptions can be misleading in the process. Sure, there are some scenarios that showcase why certain selfies or socially shared thoughts should remain unpublished. However, understanding the difference between viewing a family holiday selfie versus a spring break group selfie is about learning how to interpret character.

Simply saying, social recruiting goes by checking social networks. There is a big digital world out there. It’s also about finding an effective means for screening candidates. Find an effective means for screening talent, because investing in people means coming up with the best possible answer for knowing what you’re getting. We cannot forget that:

When it comes to hiring talent it is better to be safe than sorry. Yes, we all know that hiring talent costs money and that there are high turnover rates associated with it. Still, verifying talent is about being strategic. It’s about keeping your organization healthy. When we hire new talent, it changes the chemistry that exists and we must adjust with it. However, we owe it to our current employees to be diligent when it comes to hiring talent. Social recruiting is an alternative means to evaluating talent, but it has to be thoughtful and mindful of all legalities. Hiring talent is a serious business. We must understand what our social recruiting game plan is and what it looks for.

What #TChat-ters Shared About Social Recruiting

What’s Up Next? #TChat Comes Back Next Week! On Wednesday, Dec. 17th!

TChatRadio_logo_020813-300x300#TChat Radio Kicks Off at 7pm ET / 4pm PT — Our weekly live broadcast runs 30 minutes. Usually, #TChat-ters listen in and engage with our Twitter community.

#TChat Twitter Kicks Off at 7:30pm ET/ 4:30pm PT — Our Social Hour midpoint begins and ends with our highly engaging 30 minute Twitter discussion. We enjoy taking a deep social dive into our weekly topic by asking 3 thought adrenalizing questions. So join in on the fun during #TChat and share some of your brain power with us (or tweet us @TalentCulture).

Become A Part Of Our Social Community & Check Out Our Updates! 

The TalentCulture conversation continues daily on Twitter, in our LinkedIn group, and on our Google+ community. Engage with us anytime on our social networks or stay current with trending World of Work topics through our weekly email newsletter. Signing up is just a click away!

Passive-Recruiting

Photo credit: Link Humans via Flickr cc

Dos & Don’ts of Screening Your Candidates Online

Should employers use social media to screen candidates? A good question without a right answer; it’s a gray area both in the law and company policies, especially because many employers don’t even have a social media policy. However, there are pros and cons to utilizing social media and search engines in the hiring process, and hiring managers want to know—to snoop or not to snoop?

First, let’s take a look at how many in HR say that they use social media in the hiring process. A significant portion of employers do use social media but not for screening job candidates. According to recent data from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 77 percent of all employers surveyed “are increasingly using social networking sites for recruiting, primarily as a way to attract passive job candidates.” Far fewer employers — just 20 percent — use social sites or online search engines to screen job candidates.

Even with legal dangers overhead, some employers feel that using social media gives them another powerful tool to protect their interests, especially when it comes to hiring the right kinds of people and building an effective workforce. Take a look at these three key legal concerns.

Privacy: Employees and job applicants expect and are entitled to a reasonable level of privacy. State and federal laws, as well as the contractual terms for some social media services, may limit your reach into a prospect’s profile.

Discrimination: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and state laws prohibit employers from making hiring decisions based on protected class information — information that could be seen inadvertently on a job applicant’s profile.

Accuracy: The Fair Credit Report Act (FCRA) requires maximum possible accuracy in background checks. If you can’t prove something, you shouldn’t use it.

Alongside the risks, there are seven crucial dos and don’ts as you determine whether or not you should be using social media in the hiring process.

  1. Do designate a project owner. Consider putting a knowledgeable, well-trained individual in charge of reviewing and vetting the information found on social sites before turning the information over to the hiring manager.
  2. Don’t ask candidates for passwords. It’s already illegal to request passwords in six states, and 21 additional states are considering similar legislation. Asking for passwords may also damage your company’s reputation (if candidates start spreading the word) and employment brand, making it harder for you to engage and hire top talent.
  3. Do consider FCRA implications.The FTC has been calling out web services for acting as consumer reporting agencies when supplying employers with aggregated social media data for employment. This means that employers who use such sites have to follow Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) procedures and obtain prior written consent from job candidates to conduct a search and also supply them with advance adverse action notices.
  4. Don’t believe everything you read and see online. Verifying the accuracy of information you find online can be extremely difficult, especially in a world of user-generated content, photo-altering software and open networks.
  5. Do beware of TMI (too much information). In fact, be prepared to find more information than you want, need or can use legally. A simple Facebook search could turn up information that, if used against a candidate, could result ina Title VII discrimination claim. Remember, information readily available on a public page (religion or race, for example, gleaned by glancing at a profile picture) is protected class information. And once your hiring manager sees it, you cannot “un-ring the bell.”
  6. Don’t use social media inconsistently. One danger of using social media lies in applying it inconsistently — in other words, conducting an exhaustive social search on one job candidate but doing only a cursory investigation on another. If your internal search practices are scrutinized, inconsistency could lead to legal problems.
  7. Do create a written policy for using social media in the background screening process. Make sure that applicants are not taken by surprise and are made aware of the policy in advance. Work with your attorney to make sure that the policy defines your search parameters, who reviews the results, privacy considerations and what information you are and are not looking for.

About the Author: Nick Fishman co-founded EmployeeScreenIQ in 1999 and serves as the company’s Chief Marketing Officer and Executive Vice President. He will be a guest on the December 10th #TChat Show.

photo credit: faungg’s photo via photopin cc

#TChat Preview: Legally Leverage Social Media In Recruitment

The TalentCulture #TChat Show will be back live on Wednesday, December 10, 2014, from 7-8 pm ET (4-5 pm PT). The #TChat radio portion runs the first 30 minutes from 7-7:30 pm ET, followed by the #TChat Twitter chat from 7:30-8 pm ET.

Last week we celebrated the four-year anniversary of #TChat and talked about the future of the employee-employer relationship, and this week we’re going to talk about how to legally leverage social media in the recruitment process and more.

Where’s the first place most recruiters go today when screening a candidate? They Google them and more, right? They search for them via social media to see what’s up in the virtual world — even if they don’t admit it (or admit they based hiring decisions on what they find).

The fact is, employers can easily find professional or personal information on a job candidate with just a few clicks. However, alongside that ease come real and rising legal risks that employers must be aware of when researching candidates on a social network or through a search engine.

Join TalentCulture #TChat Show co-creators and hosts Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman as we learn about how to legally leverage social media in the recruitment process with this week’s guests: Jason Morris, Co-Founder, COO and President of EmployeeScreenIQ; and Nick Fishman, Co-Founder, EVP and CMO of EmployeeScreenIQ.

Sneak Peek:

Related Reading:

Meghan M. Biro: How Leaders Hire Top Tech Talent

Angela Preston: Congress Critical Of EEOC’s Policy Towards Background Checks

Debbie Fledderjohann: 4 Common Background Check Restrictions To Watch For When Placing Contractors

Lauren Conners: Cost Of A Bad Hire Vs. Cost Of A Background Check

Kazim Ladimeji: Can Social Media Background Checks Be Trusted?

We hope you’ll join the #TChat conversation this week and share your questions, opinions and ideas with our guest and the TalentCulture Community.

#TChat Events: How To Legally Leverage Social Media In The Recruitment Process

TChatRadio_logo_020813#TChat Radio — Wed, December 10th — 7 pm ET / 4 pm PT Tune in to the #TChat Radio show with our hosts, Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman, as they talk with our guests: Jason Morris and Nick Fishman.

Tune in LIVE online Wednesday, December 10th!

#TChat Twitter Chat — Wed, December 10th — 7:30 pm ET / 4:30 pm PT Immediately following the radio show, Meghan, Kevin, Jason and Nick will move to the #TChat Twitter stream, where we’ll continue the discussion with the entire TalentCulture community. Everyone with a Twitter account is invited to participate, as we gather for a dynamic live chat, focused on these related questions:

Q1: What are the pros and cons of screening candidates via social media? #TChat (Tweet this Question)

Q2: What course of action can be taken when finding criminal / inappropriate online activity when screening candidates? #TChat (Tweet this Question)

Q3: Is it always necessary to run background screens for all candidates you want to hire? #TChat (Tweet this Question)

Until the show, we’ll keep the discussion going on the #TChat Twitter feed, our TalentCulture World of Work Community LinkedIn group, and in our new TalentCulture G+ community. So feel free to drop by anytime and share your questions, ideas and opinions. See you there!!

photo credit: toridawnrector via photopin cc

Hiring? Promoting? How to Pick an A Player

(Editor’s Note: Last week at #TChat Events, the TalentCulture community explored best practices in candidate screening with Chris Mursau, Vice President at Topgrading, and Jean Lynn, VP of HR at Home Instead Senior Care. Afterward, some of our participants expressed interest in learning more about how the Topgrading method works. In response, Chris shared this post.)

Do you have difficulty determining if a job candidate (or existing employee) is an A, B, or C Player? If so, you’re not alone — only companies with highly sophisticated HR methods have perfected that process. However, this article helps by providing an explanation of how Topgrading experts evaluate current and prospective employees. These distinctions offer a measurable way to assess talent and build a winning team.

In many companies, “A Player” refers to someone highly promotable. Topgrading definitions of A, B, and C are different. “A, B, and C” grades refer to current ability, not promotability. However, Topgrading takes a deeper look within the A Player category to assess promotability. Here’s how:

A Player: The top 10% of talent available for a position. In other words, an A Player is among the best in class. “Available” means willing to accept a job offer:

At the given compensation level
With bonus and/or stock that corresponding to the position
In that specific company, with a particular organization culture (e.g. Family friendly? Highly political? Fast paced? Topgraded and growing?)
In that particular industry
In that location
With specific accountability levels and resources, and
Reports to a specific person (e.g. Positive A Player or negative C Player?)

In other words, if you’re a terrific leader, many more candidates will be “available” to you than a lousy leader.

A Player Potential: Someone who is predicted to achieve A Player status, usually within 6-12 months.

B Player: The next 25% of available talent below the A Player top 10%, given the same A Player criteria listed above. These employees are “okay” or “adequate,” but they’re marginal performers who lack the potential to be high performers and are not as good as others available for the same pay. B Players are unable, despite training and coaching, to rise to A Player status. If they can qualify for a job as an A Player, they should be considered for it.

C Player: The next 35%, below the A Player 10% and B Player 25%, of talent available for a job. C Players are chronic underperformers.

The only acceptable categories are A Player and A Potential. We further categorize A Players by promotability:

A1: Someone who is promotable two levels
A2: Someone who is promotable one level
A3: Someone who is a high performer, but not promotable

Example: The not-promotable store stocker, sales rep, or first-level supervisor who is an A3, is a high performer, an A Player — but just not promotable. These employees are high performers because they achieve their A-Player accountabilities, plus they’re terrific with customers, they’re totally reliable, they achieve excellent results, they’re highly motivated, super honest, and very resourceful at finding ways to be more effective in driving the company mission.

It’s important to value all of your A Players, including the many who are the heart and soul of your company — including the A3s who are terrific, but are just not promotable.

How Do A, B and C Players Differ On Key Competencies?
The following chart is a bit simplistic, because not all A Players are this great on all competencies, and not all C Players are this bad on all competencies. Also note: for management jobs, Topgraders look at 50 competencies — this chart features only 8. However, it provides some insight into the methodology:

Topgrading_Competencies Example

The Best Way to Identify As, Bs and Cs:
If you know the story of Topgrading, you know that this methodology has long been considered one the “secret weapons” Jack Welch used to improve General Electric’s success at picking A Players. In fact, the company’s success rate improved from 25% to well over 90%, using Topgrading to assess candidates for both hire and for promotion.

The methods are similar. Two trained interviewers conduct a tandem Topgrading Interview — and if there are internal candidates for promotion, rather than talking with outside references, the interviewers talk with bosses, peers and subordinates in the company.

It’s important to look for patterns of success. Bottom line, the “magic” of Topgrading comes from understanding how successful a person was in job 1, job 2, job 3, and so on, with the greatest weight given to the most recent jobs.

Summary: Extensive research shows that 75% of people hired or promoted turn out NOT to be A Players or A Potentials. Yet, Topgrading methods regularly achieve 80%+ success. For more real-world understanding of how this approach is applied, see case studies that demonstrate how companies improved from 26% to 85% on average, in hiring and promoting A Players.

Have you used Topgrading or other methods of assessing employee potential? What did you discover in your experience? Share your thoughts and questions in the comments area.

Mursau Bio Photo(About the AuthorChris Mursau is Vice President of Topgrading, Inc. He has been practicing, teaching and consulting with companies and individual managers on how to pack their teams with A Players since 2001. He has conducted over 2,500 in-depth assessments for internal and external candidates, helped hundreds of people achiever their A potential, and trained thousands of people in all things Topgrading.)

(Also Note: To discuss World of Work topics like this with the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat Events each Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome at events, or join our ongoing Twitter and G+ conversation anytime. Learn more…)

Image Credit: Stock.xchng

Recruiters: What's Your Behavioral Interviewing Strategy?

Written by Deepa Barve

Behavioral interviews are increasingly popular as the “in” thing in in recruitment techniques.

These days, you’ll find tons of online resources that share all sorts of advice for candidates about how to ace a behavioral interview. Yet oddly enough, recruiters often only receive a simple template with a list of standard “behavioral questions.”

But here’s the catch for recruiters: What you do with the interview answers is far more important than the questions, themselves.

Make The Most of Behavioral Interviewing

To get more value from every interview session, keep these three tips in mind:

1) If at first the answer doesn’t succeed, ask, ask again

Behavioral interviewing is based on the belief that past behavior is a predictor of future performance. The keywords here are “past behavior.” Too often, candidates have a tendency to respond to questions hypothetically. But that only tells you what they think they would do (or think you want them to do) in a particular situation. It’s not what they’ve actually done in a similar situation.

If candidates can’t think of a past example, broaden the parameters of the question. Suggest they provide an example from their personal life instead of a professional example. You could also try rewording or paraphrasing the question to help stumped candidates respond appropriately.

2) Know your ideal answer before you ask the question

Interpreting responses to behavioral questions can be tricky. These questions are typically multidimensional, so the answers can be complex and misleading. Some candidates are also adept at this sort of interviewing, and have practiced the art of sounding eloquent while avoiding an authentic, relevant answer.

Each specific behavioral question is typically meant to assess a particular skill. Having a good idea of what you’d like to hear (similar to creating an ideal performance profile) will help you hone in on the competency or skills you’re assessing.

For example, consider the question, “Tell me about a time when you’ve failed at work.” Answers may range from “I’ve never failed” to some version of, “I’m human and I’ve made many mistakes.” Candidates may describe a mistake with negligible impact or reveal details of a huge blunder.

Ultimately, the actual mistakes they made don’t matter. But how they reply does.

The ideal response should include three components: 1) details of the mistake, 2) remedial action they initiated to correct it, and 3) steps they took to prevent it from happening again. The third element — the “applied learning” component — is most important. Very few candidates actually cover the second or third aspects of an answer, unless they’re prompted.

3) Dig deep to make this conversation really count

Prior to an interview, you’ve probably sifted through volumes of resumes and profiles to find a few candidates worth getting to know. You might have also invested time in intermediary steps such as phone screens to create a short list of candidates that seem worthy of a behavioral interview. So make every moment count. Ask follow-up questions to probe deeper. And ask clarifying questions to understand the context surrounding a candidate’s examples.

Be curious, but don’t interrogate. Make it a conversation. Assure them there are no right or wrong answers. Some answers may not impact a hiring decision, but may simply indicate areas where training or coaching are required. Don’t jump to conclusions. Instead, seek complete and accurate information that can ultimately inform your hiring decisions.

Above all, aim to disarm job candidates. After all, you’re trying to get a glimpse of how they behave outside the interview setting. If you’re committed to finding the right talent this way, then it’s worth conducting these interviews right.

Your Turn

What are your thoughts? Have you tried any of these three behavioral interview techniques? What else do you recommend?

Deepa-Barve1(About the Author: Deepa Barve is Sr. Recruitment Leader at SSOE Group, an architectural and engineering consulting firm. Deepa has more than seven years of recruiting experience in engineering, healthcare and hospitality. Her career advice articles are also featured at www.examiner.com.)

(Editor’s Note: This post is adapted from Brazen Life, with permission. Brazen Life is a lifestyle and career blog for ambitious young professionals. Hosted by Brazen Careerist, it offers edgy and fun ideas for navigating the changing world of work. Be Brazen!)

(Also Note: To discuss World of Work topics like this with others in the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat Events every Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome at events, or join our ongoing Twitter conversation anytime. Learn more…)


Image Credit: Stock.xchng

Recruiters: What’s Your Behavioral Interviewing Strategy?

Written by Deepa Barve

Behavioral interviews are increasingly popular as the “in” thing in in recruitment techniques.

These days, you’ll find tons of online resources that share all sorts of advice for candidates about how to ace a behavioral interview. Yet oddly enough, recruiters often only receive a simple template with a list of standard “behavioral questions.”

But here’s the catch for recruiters: What you do with the interview answers is far more important than the questions, themselves.

Make The Most of Behavioral Interviewing

To get more value from every interview session, keep these three tips in mind:

1) If at first the answer doesn’t succeed, ask, ask again

Behavioral interviewing is based on the belief that past behavior is a predictor of future performance. The keywords here are “past behavior.” Too often, candidates have a tendency to respond to questions hypothetically. But that only tells you what they think they would do (or think you want them to do) in a particular situation. It’s not what they’ve actually done in a similar situation.

If candidates can’t think of a past example, broaden the parameters of the question. Suggest they provide an example from their personal life instead of a professional example. You could also try rewording or paraphrasing the question to help stumped candidates respond appropriately.

2) Know your ideal answer before you ask the question

Interpreting responses to behavioral questions can be tricky. These questions are typically multidimensional, so the answers can be complex and misleading. Some candidates are also adept at this sort of interviewing, and have practiced the art of sounding eloquent while avoiding an authentic, relevant answer.

Each specific behavioral question is typically meant to assess a particular skill. Having a good idea of what you’d like to hear (similar to creating an ideal performance profile) will help you hone in on the competency or skills you’re assessing.

For example, consider the question, “Tell me about a time when you’ve failed at work.” Answers may range from “I’ve never failed” to some version of, “I’m human and I’ve made many mistakes.” Candidates may describe a mistake with negligible impact or reveal details of a huge blunder.

Ultimately, the actual mistakes they made don’t matter. But how they reply does.

The ideal response should include three components: 1) details of the mistake, 2) remedial action they initiated to correct it, and 3) steps they took to prevent it from happening again. The third element — the “applied learning” component — is most important. Very few candidates actually cover the second or third aspects of an answer, unless they’re prompted.

3) Dig deep to make this conversation really count

Prior to an interview, you’ve probably sifted through volumes of resumes and profiles to find a few candidates worth getting to know. You might have also invested time in intermediary steps such as phone screens to create a short list of candidates that seem worthy of a behavioral interview. So make every moment count. Ask follow-up questions to probe deeper. And ask clarifying questions to understand the context surrounding a candidate’s examples.

Be curious, but don’t interrogate. Make it a conversation. Assure them there are no right or wrong answers. Some answers may not impact a hiring decision, but may simply indicate areas where training or coaching are required. Don’t jump to conclusions. Instead, seek complete and accurate information that can ultimately inform your hiring decisions.

Above all, aim to disarm job candidates. After all, you’re trying to get a glimpse of how they behave outside the interview setting. If you’re committed to finding the right talent this way, then it’s worth conducting these interviews right.

Your Turn

What are your thoughts? Have you tried any of these three behavioral interview techniques? What else do you recommend?

Deepa-Barve1(About the Author: Deepa Barve is Sr. Recruitment Leader at SSOE Group, an architectural and engineering consulting firm. Deepa has more than seven years of recruiting experience in engineering, healthcare and hospitality. Her career advice articles are also featured at www.examiner.com.)

(Editor’s Note: This post is adapted from Brazen Life, with permission. Brazen Life is a lifestyle and career blog for ambitious young professionals. Hosted by Brazen Careerist, it offers edgy and fun ideas for navigating the changing world of work. Be Brazen!)

(Also Note: To discuss World of Work topics like this with others in the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat Events every Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome at events, or join our ongoing Twitter conversation anytime. Learn more…)


Image Credit: Stock.xchng